Missouri Pardon Information
The Missouri Constitution gives the Governor the “power to grant reprieves, commutations and pardons, after conviction, for all offenses except treason and cases of impeachment.” The Governor can place any conditions or restrictions on a pardon as he deems proper. The Legislature gets to decide the manner on how you can apply for a pardon.
The Legislature has created a body called the Board of Probation and Parole, which is responsible for receiving, investigating, and making recommendations to the Governor on all pardon applications. Your pardon application must go through the Board before it goes to the Governor.
The Board is made up of seven full-time members who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Members each serve a six-year term and no more than four members can be from the same political party.
Because the focus of this site is on pardons, we will not discuss reprieves, commutations, remission of fines and forfeitures, parole, or other types of clemency that may be available in Missouri here. We will also not discuss judicial alternatives such as record expungement, record sealing, dismissal or setting aside of convictions. If you think any of these alternative remedies may be more appropriate for you, you should talk to an attorney.
If you are still confined in prison or jail, you can apply for clemency (which includes pardons) at any time. However, if you have already been released from prison or jail, you must meet the following requirements:
You must have been fully discharged from your sentencing, including any probation or parole, for at least 3 years. You must not have received any convictions (excluding minor traffic offenses) within the 3 years immediately before applying for a pardon. You cannot have any charges currently (i.e. at the time you apply) pending against you. You must have not been denied any form of executive clemency (including a pardon, commutation, reprieve, etc.) in the three years before you apply. If you were placed on probation and your sentence was suspended, you are generally not eligible for a pardon.
The Board of Probation and Parole can only consider, and the Governor can only grant, a pardon for a Missouri State conviction. If you want a pardon for a federal conviction, you must do that through the United States Department of Justice, Office of the Pardon Attorney (see our page on this site on federal pardons). If you want to pardon for an out-of-state conviction, you should find the appropriate page on this site dealing with pardons in that particular state.
Finally, keep in mind that the vast majority of pardon applications are denied. For example, between 2001 and 2004, the Governor only granted 45 clemency applications (this includes the combination of pardons, commutations, reprieves, etc.) and denied 840 of them. In 2012, 526 applications were received and no pardons were granted.
Your chance of getting a pardon largely depends on your individual circumstances. Naturally, the older and less serious your conviction, and the more compelling your life story, the higher your chance of getting a pardon. Your chance of getting a pardon can also depend on who is serving as Governor at the time your application is reviewed; some Governors are simply more lenient than others in handing out pardons.
The Application Process
There are no fees to apply for a pardon in Missouri. The Board of Probation and Parole has conveniently created a clemency application form for you to use. You must use the Board’s form. The form can be obtained from the Board’s website at http://www.doc.mo.gov/division/prob/prob.htm. If you cannot access the Board’s website or the application form itself, you can call the Board directly at 573-751-8488 to have one mailed or emailed to you. You can also write to:
Board of Probation and Parole
1511 Christy Drive
Jefferson City, MO 65101
The form should be quite simple and self-explanatory, as it was created for the non-lawyer to use. The form asks you for basic information such as your name, social security number, and date of birth. It will also asks you to list information about every conviction you have ever received, including the date you were convicted, what the charge was, the county you were convicted in, and the sentence you received. If you do not have enough information about a particular conviction, you should contact the law enforcement agency involved in the case and/or the court where you were convicted.
If you do not recall every conviction you have ever received, you should contact the Missouri State Highway Patrol at (573) 526-6153 to obtain a criminal history report for yourself. The report should list all arrests and convictions you have ever received in Missouri. You can also visit its website at www.mshp.dps.mo.gov.
If you have convictions in other states, you can obtain a more comprehensive, nationwide criminal history report for yourself from the FBI. You can find out how to do this by calling the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., a (202) 324-3000, or logging onto its website at http://www.fbi.gov. The FBI’s website also has a list of local FBI offices you can call.
Alternatively, you can contact the criminal history record repository (which keeps a record of all criminal activity in a state) in each state where you have convictions. Listed on Criminal History Record Repositories is a list of criminal history record repositories for all 50 states.
On a separate sheet of paper, you should submit a detailed and genuine personal statement explaining why you need a pardon. Simply saying you want a clean criminal record again is not enough. Tell the Board/Governor how your conviction has negatively affected you and/or your family. For example, explain how you have been denied housing or employment opportunities because of your conviction, and how this has prevented you from providing your family and you an adequate standard of living. Provide any proof you may have (e.g., denial letters).
If you are facing deportation because of a conviction, explain how being separated from your family will negatively affect you as well as them. If you are pursuing a career in a field that requires you to obtain a pardon, submit documents, letters, or other proof from a prospective employer, licensing agency, or attorney verifying this necessity.
If you need to regain your gun rights, explain why you need this—for example, you are pursuing a career that requires the use of firearms, or you want to take part in your family hunting traditions, or you simply want to feel more secure and able to defend yourself and/or your family after a recent traumatic event.
Also indicate on your personal statement all the positive things that have occurred in your life—for example, educational achievements, new or stable employment, marriage and children, community involvement, charitable services or donations, law-abiding behavior, etc. Submit copies of your college transcript, high school diploma or GED, military certificates, marriage certificate, honors and awards, and other proof of your rehabilitation and good character. Explain what your future plans are and how a pardon would help or hinder those plans.
In writing your personal statement, keep in mind that the Clemency Board/Governor will not be retrying you for the offense. Although you may want to explain the facts of the crime from your perspective, avoid trying to make excessive excuses for your crime and arguing away your guilt. Whatever you feel about the crime, you had already been found guilty. The Board/Governor is probably more interested in seeing your remorse for the crime, and your understanding of its effects on the victim and society, than anything else.
Also, although not required, we suggest that you submit a few letters of recommendation from credible people (such as your boss) who know you well and can say good things about you. These letters should indicate to what extent the writer knows you and why he or she thinks you should be granted a pardon. The letters should also indicate the writer’s contact information for verification purposes. If possible, you should choose individuals who are not related to you, in order to avoid the appearance of bias.
Your completed application, along with any supporting documents and letters of recommendation, should be sent to the above address.
Once the Board receives your application, it will do an investigation. If you are still confined in prison or jail, the Board will first determine if there is enough information for your application to be sent to the Governor. The Board may investigate and consider such things as your criminal history record (including the present offense which you are serving a sentence for); your behavior and any accomplishments you have had while confined; whether you have any medical or mental needs; and statements from the judge, prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, and victim involved in the case.
If you are not presently confined in jail or prison, and have met the basic eligibility requirements listed in Part B, then the Board will conduct an investigation into your application. As part of the investigation, the Board will look at your reasons for applying for a pardon; your entire criminal history record; the victim impact statement (if there is any); your conduct since you were discharged from your sentence, based on such things as your social, employment, and financial history; testimonials from your references such as friends, family, and employers; and the opinion of the local criminal justice community, such as a judge, prosecuting attorney, and law enforcement agency.
Once the investigation is complete, the Board will prepare a report, along with a recommendation, to send to the Governor. There will be no public hearing on your application. Everything is conducted in writing and the Board may meet and deliberate in closed sessions. You should be upfront and cooperative with the Board, the Governor’s office, and their agents at all times.
If in the event the Board or Governor does decide to meet you in person, you should take advantage of the opportunity. If the Board/Governor allows, have friends, family members, neighbors, and others in your community attend the hearing or interview to show their support. The hearing/interview is an excellent opportunity for you to put a human face onto your application; it lets the Board/Governor not only see you in person but also see the amount of support you have in your community. Needless to say, you should look and act your best; dress in the same way you would if you were going to court for a trial (this means, for men, a suit and tie).
The Governor will have your entire file. The Governor has the final say on whether or not you receive a pardon. He or she is not required to follow the Board’s recommendation. You will receive a written notification of the Governor’s decision. The Governor’s decision is typically final; this means you cannot appeal to a court if you are unhappy with the decision.
If the Governor grants you a pardon, you will receive a pardon document, signed by the Governor, stating that the pardon “obliterates” the effects of the conviction, relieves you of all obligations associated with the conviction, restores all rights which you lost because of the conviction, and relieves you of any legal disabilities/disqualifications that were imposed on you because of that conviction.
However, a pardon does not erase or “expunge” your conviction from your criminal history record. Like many other states, a Missouri pardon “forgives, but does not forget.” Your conviction will still be viewable by the general public. If you are interesting in keeping you conviction hidden from the public, you should talk to a record expungement attorney to see what your options are.
In the meantime, if you are concerned that your conviction may be a problem when you apply for a job, housing, a business or occupational license, then you may want to send the employer, landlord, or licensing agency a copy of your pardon to let them know you have been forgiven of that particular offense. After all, a pardon is a strong official statement from the highest executive officer of the State forgiving you of the offense and essentially declaring you a rehabilitated individual. Most employers, landlords, and licensing agencies will probably ignore you conviction if they know you have been pardoned.
In Missouri, if you are convicted of a felony, you lose your right to vote while you are confined in prison or while on probation or parole. However, your right to vote is automatically restored once you have been finally discharged from prison, probation or parole. You permanently lose this right, however, if you have been convicted of a felony OR misdemeanor connected with voting (for example, election fraud). In this case, only a Governor’s pardon can restore your voting rights. However, the Governor is not required to restore your voting rights. As indicated in Part B, the Governor can place any limitations, conditions, or restrictions on your pardon as he deems proper.
In Missouri, you forever lose your right to serve on a jury if you have been convicted of any felony (whatever it may be). However, the Governor may restore this right for you at the time he grants you a pardon. Likewise, if you are convicted of a felony you lose your right to hold any public office in Missouri. However, this right is automatically restored once you complete your sentence (including probation or parole) for that felony. If the Governor grants you a pardon, he may restore this right for you at the time he grants you the pardon.
In Missouri, you cannot possess a gun if you have been convicted of a felony. However, like other basic citizenship rights, the Governor may restore your gun rights for you at the time he grants you a pardon. If the pardon does not specifically say that your gun rights are restored, do not assume that they are; the consequences of “unlawful possession of a firearm” can be severe. Thus, if getting your gun rights restored is important to you, make sure you make this desire known during the application process.
Under federal law, if you have received a pardon from any state, the pardoned conviction cannot be used by federal authorities to prosecute you for “unlawful possession of a firearm” under federal law, unless the pardon specifically says you cannot possess a gun. However, just because you cannot be prosecuted under federal law does not mean you cannot be prosecuted under state law. Some states have stricter gun laws than federal law.
In most cases, federal immigration authorities cannot rely solely on a conviction that has been subject to a pardon for the purpose of deporting you from the country. If immigration is not an issue for you, this benefit is obviously irrelevant.
If you are required to register as a sex offender for life because of a particular conviction, a pardon for that conviction would release you of this duty. Of course, if you have other convictions that require you to register and that have not been pardoned, you may have to continue registering.
A state licensing board or agency cannot legally deny you a license for a particular trade, occupation, or profession (e.g. a law, teaching, or nursing license) solely because of a criminal conviction, especially if you have received a pardon for that conviction.
Finally, keep in mind that the effects of a pardon can vary from one state to the next. For example, if you receive a pardon in Missouri and then move to another state, that other state might take away your gun rights or require you to register as a sex offender again even if the pardon lifted these restrictions from you while you were living in Missouri. Thus, you should always check with the laws of the state you move to rather than just assume that the benefits of the pardon moves with you across state lines. Fortunately, states tend and honor each other’s pardons.
- Missouri on Wikipedia
- Missouri State Bar
- ApplyForPardon .com - Pardon form completion service. Enter your information and get a neat and clean looking form sent to you.
- Record Clearing .org - post conviction information
- Mo. Const. art. IV, § 7.
- Mo. Rev. Stat. § 217.800.
- Mo. Rev. Stat. § 217.665.
- Missouri Department of Corrections, http://www.doc.mo.gov/division/prob/ExecClem.htm
- The Sentencing Project, Missouri, Margaret Colgate Love, http://www.sentencingproject.org/tmp/File/Collateral%20Consequences/Missouri.pdf
- Chris Cline, Director of Communications
- Mo. Rev. Stat. § 217.670.
- Mo. Rev. Stat. § 115.133.
- Mo. Rev. Stat. § 561.026.
- Mo. Rev. Stat. § 56l.021.
- Mo. Rev. Stat. § 571.070.
- 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) & (33).
- Mo. Rev. Stat. § 589.400; see also R.W. v. Sanders, 168 S.W.3d 65 (Mo. 2005)(“Registration is a lifetime requirement unless all offense requiring registration are reversed, vacated, set aside or the offender is pardoned.”).
- Mo. Rev. Stat. § 314.200.